Streamline Your Timeline: Create a More Efficient Hiring Process

It can decrease how long it takes to make an offer and secure top talent for your team


In a competitive hiring environment, the company that makes the offer first is likely to land the prize candidate. Unfortunately, the hiring process in some companies is less than efficient with myriad steps, details and inputs that can serve to draw out the undertaking.

the hiring process graphic

Reducing time to hire isn’t just about driving down the costs of the hiring process, although that is obviously one area of concern. A potentially more significant area of concern is ensuring that your company can be first to make an offer, particularly when dealing with pools of candidates in high demand and short supply. It’s logical to assume that virtually all of your applicants also are applying for positions with other companies. Take too long and they already may have accepted a job with another employer, potentially a competitor.

A look at the data

In 2015, the job and recruiting website Glassdoor, based in Mill Valley, California, published its first study of hiring delays, based on hundreds of thousands of job interview reviews shared on its platform. The study revealed significant differences in time to hire across countries, industries and jobs. The study recently was updated, revealing some interesting variations across geographies.

The country with the longest hiring process? Brazil, with an average of 39.6 days.

The country with the shortest hiring process? India, with an average of 16.1 days.

In the United States, the most efficient hiring processes were found in the Kansas City metro area, with an average of 16.9 days.

Industry variations also are interesting to note. The longest hiring processes occur in government (53.8 days), aerospace and defense (32.6 days), and energy and utilities (28.8 days). The shortest are found in restaurants and bars (10.2 days), private security (11.6 days) and supermarkets (12.3 days). It takes about 60 days to hire a professor but only about eight days to hire waiters, retail representatives and delivery drivers.

Why all of the variation? You could argue that decisions representing higher risk to an organization (as in aerospace and defense) understandably require more time than decisions related to hiring waiters or retail staff. In looking at the data, though, Glassdoor determined that while job title and all other factors (country, industry, employer type and number of employees) had about a 7% impact on time to hire, company factors accounted for 14.7% of the impact.

Company factors in time to hire

The bigger the company, the greater the bureaucracy and the more steps, signoffs and approvals likely required to move from request to hire through accepted offer. Glassdoor’s research suggests that “on average, job interview durations are shortest at companies with fewer than 10 employees, ranging from just 15 days in Canada to 20 days in the United Kingdom.” When it comes to hiring time frames, size definitely does matter.

Let’s take a look at other factors that can impact time to hire and how you might influence them to shorten the time involved.

1. Approval to post

Some companies have a process that supervisors and managers must go through to receive approval to post a job, even when the job is a direct replacement of a previously authorized position. These approvals can consume time, depending on how many must be sought — and how much priority is placed on these requests by those involved in the chain of command.

Companies can reduce approval times by allowing positions to be automatically posted when an employee gives notice, reducing the number of people involved in the process. Managers also can be proactive and request new positions in anticipation of hiring needs.

2. Decide on internal vs. external

Companies may want to consider an “expedited pathway” to allow managers to recruit internal employees for open positions or to have the ability to promote employees from within the company without needing to go outside for additional candidates. Whether or not companies wish to do this will depend on their culture and philosophy related to internal vs. external hires, but it certainly can be one way to expedite the hiring process.

Of course, hiring or promoting from within will leave a position in the organization open that may need to be filled from outside. However, it’s likely these positions will be at lower levels of the company where time to hire tends to be shorter.

3. Review the job description

Invariably at the point when a position becomes open, the hiring manager looks at the job description and discovers it’s out of date. Then, before the job can be posted, the manager must update the job description and, potentially, get approvals before it can be finalized.

Having a process in place that requires regular review and updating of job descriptions can help minimize this issue. Perhaps require employees and their managers to evaluate and update job descriptions annually during the performance review process.

It’s vital, though, that the important step of ensuring that the job description is accurate and up to date not be skipped. Skipping this step can create problems at a later point in the hiring process, starting with the creation of the job posting.

Another good practice that can be instituted here is to create a hiring matrix based on the job description to be used in evaluating candidates later in the process.

4. Create the job posting

Bob Broady with Sanford Rose Associates, an executive search firm based in Greenwood Village, Colorado, says companies will jump to create the job posting and other advertising communications before carefully stepping through the previous must-dos. “Many companies hurry to post their job descriptions to the website as they pursue the ‘Field of Dreams’ strategy of ‘if we post it, they will come,’ ” he says. “We have learned this approach dramatically extends the hiring cycle, as you are starting with an inaccurate target.” Instead, he recommends taking the time to “go deep” with the hiring manager and learn more details about the role. “We obtain a marksmanship accurate bullseye that makes the search timeline much shorter and effective,” Broady says.

5. Solicit candidates

The human resources department has an important role to play here and should have established go-to sources and pipelines that have proved to generate candidates for specific types of positions.

One important must-do during the solicitation process is to establish a time frame for when applications will be closed. Leaving the window open indefinitely delays the hiring process, as incoming resumes continue to be reviewed. Having a cut-off date results in a finite number of applications that can be reviewed.

6. Review applications

If, during the review of the job description, you developed a hiring matrix to help evaluate candidates, you’re in a good position to shave some additional time off the process. It also is helpful to identify, upfront, who the members of the screening team will be, provide them with the matrix and inform them of how the process should work.

The HR department can play a role here, as well, if it can prescreen applications and send only the top-tier candidates to the hiring manager for review. Obviously, the fewer people involved in the process, the less time it should take.

7. Arrange interviews

Anyone in a business setting knows how challenging it can be to coordinate calendars to schedule meetings. Team interviews are common, and certainly valuable, during the hiring process, but can present challenges. Asking that members of the hiring team clear their calendars and prioritize meetings with applicants is one important best practice. Having alternate team members can be another best practice. If one team member in a particular role can’t participate in an interview, hopefully another person in that same role can.

8. Conduct interviews

Conducting interviews potentially is one of the least time-consuming aspects of the hiring process if they can be scheduled to take place over a few days instead of many weeks. About an hour for each interview is all that is generally required. Of course, time can be added to this process when multiple rounds of interviews are conducted, as is often the case.

While multiple interviews and group interviews can be helpful, it may be most efficient and effective to limit these to higher-level positions; entry-level
positions can be handled more efficiently through one round rather than multiple. In addition, phone and video interviews also can be used to expedite the process.

9. Conduct screening tests

Screening tests — like IQ, job skills, personality, and drug and background checks — can be important checkpoints for employers when evaluating candidates for a job. These tests, though, do add time to the hiring process. Glassdoor’s research reveals the following average added days for various types of screening tests:

Presentation: +2.7 to 4.2 days

IQ intelligence test: +2.6 to 4.4 days

Job skills test: +.06 to 1.5 days

Personality test: +0.9 to 1.3 days

Drug test: +0.3 to 0.8 days

Background check: +3.1 to 3.4 days

10. Reach consensus on candidates

Lauren McAdams, a hiring manager, career consultant and lead writer for Resume Companion in Wilmington, Delaware, says ongoing communication with candidates, particularly top candidates, is critical throughout what can become a long process. “Show your potential hires the light at the end of the tunnel by letting them know exactly what the coming steps are in the hiring process and giving them a timeline to reference,” she says. “Being upfront about exactly what needs to happen — and the time it will take — will both ease their minds and make you a more desirable employer.”

Along with this, make sure to stay engaged with your top candidates while a decision is being made, letting them know where you are in the process and checking to see if they’re still interested in the position.

11. Make an offer

Clearly, at any step in this process, there’s a chance you might have to take one or more steps back. It’s something of a catch-22. Consider, for example, that if your time frame to decide to make an offer is too long, your desired candidate may no longer be available. Your second and third choices may not be available. As a result, you may need to start the entire process over again.

Your own processes may involve even more steps. A good approach to identifying ways to drive down time to hire would be to identify the steps in your process and the average time involved for each step. Then, work to identify parts of the process that could be streamlined or eliminated — even if just for certain positions. Not every open position necessarily will require that you go through all of the steps.

Hiring decisions are not to be made lightly, and you certainly don’t want to rush the process simply for the sake of reducing your time-to-hire metrics. But you can and should take steps to shorten each stage by carefully reviewing the processes, handoffs and time frames involved at each step and considering ways they could be minimized or removed.

Streamlining time to hire

Breaking down the many steps involved in the hiring process makes it quickly apparent how the time to hire easily can be extended. At each of these steps, though, there is opportunity to shorten the process, and this should be the focus of a hiring process improvement effort. Time, as they say, is money. The larger the company and the more people involved in the process, the higher the cost per hire will be.

In addition, companies should “think talent pipeline vs. isolated search,” Broady says. He recommends considering hiring needs into the future — the next three to nine months.

Technology also can be an aid in the hiring process, particularly as artificial intelligence and machine learning applications continue to be explored.

The London-based consumer goods company Unilever was able to reduce its time to hire from four months to four weeks by using a process powered by AI, aided by partners Pymetrics and HireVue, according to a Business Insider article. The company also estimates it has reduced time spent by recruiters in the process by 75%. Another HireVue client, the soft drink company Dr Pepper in Plano, Texas, has reduced time to hire by replacing the application, phone screen, assessment and interview with an on-demand video interview as the first step in the process.

Finally, taking steps to ensure recruiters — whether internal or external — are highly familiar with the role being recruited for can both cut time and improve hiring outcomes. Research from Scout Exchange, a cloud-based recruiting platform with flagship locations in Boston and Chicago, shows that recruiters who specialize in a particular niche job — e.g., “specialty recruiters” — typically fill positions 32% faster than nonspecialists. Ken Lazarus, chief executive officer of Scout Exchange, says its data “indicates that 91% of employer hires are secured by specialty recruiters or search professionals who work on the same job type over and over again.” Why might they be more successful? He points to a number of potential reasons. They have:

An expert understanding of hard and soft skills required in their specialty

Intimate knowledge of the candidate pool and candidates’ capabilities and experiences

Trusted relationships with both passive and active candidates in their specialty

Experience to quickly screen applicants down to a small slate of the most qualified candidates

A proven track record of success, as shown via Recruiter Ratings, builds trust with employers.

Even if your HR bench strength isn’t high enough to allow for a number of specialized recruiters, it may be useful to identify key positions that have been hard to recruit and work to develop those specialized skills among key staff members.

Each day you can eke out of the time-to-hire process by implementing best practice steps like these counts.

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